- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan They emerged into the crisp morning, stared at their mile-high city and knew war was visiting again.
Misery and uncertainty have been a near constant in the lives of the people of the Afghan capital for more than two decades now. But even for them the day after the first attacks by the United States and Britain was difficult to face.
"I don't understand why the people of Afghanistan are such unlucky people," said Mirza Mohammed, leaving town yesterday morning with his four children for Logar province in the central part of Afghanistan. "I haven't seen Osama bin Laden in my life," he said.
More bombs falling last night, as allied forces staged a second night of attacks, only strengthened the sense that Afghanistan's unhappy history was repeating itself.
Things appeared normal, as normal as possible in a capital that has endured so many years of war. Markets opened as usual. The city, already just a shell of what it was even after 10 years of Soviet occupation, looked the same yesterday morning as it had at dawn on Sunday.
But ravaged psyches don't show the way damaged buildings do.
Shaken residents sought to make sense of the attacks, which Washington and London said were aimed at crippling the ruling Taliban's air defenses while an international coalition hunts down top terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.
The people were bracing for yet another siege of war.
"Both sides are strong. America is not afraid and Osama is not afraid," said Fida Mohammed, a bus driver who lives near the airport. He has moved to his brother's house at the other end of the city.
"This fighting may be long," he said. "American people are eating chicken, and all we want is a piece of bread and still we are in trouble."
A spot check of four hospitals turned up no evidence of casualties. Kabul's airport compound, however, was closed.
Some people tried to resume their normal daily life, opening their shops. Taliban guards were in their usual positions outside government offices.
As Kabul mosques opened yesterday for early morning prayers, calls rose for a holy war against America. "We have to sacrifice ourselves for our country and Islam," was the call at one mosque.
Afghan leaders yesterday were struggling with a challenge on another front as the Northern Alliance, an umbrella group of opposition factions, continued to press Taliban forces on the ground.
Northern Alliance commander Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum reportedly had fought his way out of an enclave south of the key northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif.
One of his subcommanders, Abdul Wahab, who spoke to the general on a satellite phone, said he had reached the suburbs of the city and was fighting for control of the airport.
The U.S. and British attacks had come as curfew was approaching at about 9 p.m. Sunday night. Few Afghans were on the streets. Five thunderous blasts sounded; anti-aircraft fire lit the sky. The city quickly went dark.
In a once-posh neighborhood home to many Taliban leaders bearded soldiers piled into the backs of pickup trucks.
They roared through the city's streets in the minutes after the explosion, beginning a swift, harsh security crackdown. They screamed at drivers to halt, demanding to see identity papers.
For more than 30 minutes, Taliban anti-aircraft guns thundered shells into the darkness, the only light visible. In about an hour, the city grew calmer.
In another hour, the curfew firmly in place, electricity returned. By midnight, lights glowed in homes across Kabul; people were still up. A bit later, a lone aircraft dropped one bomb on Kabul's northern edge. Then the city went dark again.
Mohammed Jalil said the first bomb fell near his home in the northwest of the city, close to Maranjan Hill, site of former King Mohammed Zaher Shah's father's tomb.
"We don't know what is happening in this country," said Jalil, a waiter. He looks after an entire extended family, including his sister-in-law, whose husband was killed after the Soviets invaded in 1979.

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